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Understanding the Stages of Alzheimer’s

One of the most important questions you can ask if you or your loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease is, “ What are the stages of Alzheimer’s?” Understanding what’s to come is the first step in preparing and processing such a complex diagnosis. Every person with Alzheimer’s will experience all 7 stages of Alzheimer’s, but may progress through the Alzheimer’s stages timeline at different rates. Here, we’ll walk through the stages of Alzheimer’s disease and explore how to help someone with Alzheimer’s.

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Stage One: No Impairment

The first three stages of the seven-stage model are known as​ ​Preclinical Alzheimer’s Disease​. In the first stage, called No Cognitive Decline, a person with Alzheimer’s has no memory impairment and will show no symptoms, as the disease is yet undetectable.

Stage Two: Very Mild Decline

During State Two, a person with Alzheimer’s will begin to have slight lapses in memory such as losing things around the house and misplacing daily items. At this stage, it can be difficult to distinguish between Alzheimer’s disease and normal age-related memory loss, making it almost undetectable by loved ones.

Stage Three: Mild Decline

Stage Three is when loved ones may start to notice cognitive problems. Memory lapses will increase and the person with Alzheimer’s will likely begin to have difficulty focusing. The person may also have difficulty finding the right words to communicate during conversations and remembering names of new acquaintances. On average, Stage Three sets in around seven years prior to dementia.

Stage Four: Moderate Decline

Stage Four is considered early-stage dementia. During this stage, loved ones will likely notice cognitive decline and should consult a physician for diagnosis. A person in Stage Four of Alzheimer’s will experience:

  • Difficulty socializing and increasing isolation
  • Decline in problem-solving and simple math
  • Poor short-term memory
  • Forgetting details about life stories
  • Significant changes in behavior and personality

While on average the duration of Stage Four Alzheimer’s is two years, loved ones will need to begin considering ​how to help someone with Alzheimer’s​.

Stage Five: Moderately Severe Cognitive Decline

Stages Five and Six constitute Mid-Stage Dementia. A person with Alzheimer’s will have trouble performing daily activities in Stage Five. Major lapses in memory will continue throughout Stage Five, adding to the need for help with simple things like bathing, dressing, preparing meals, and handling bill paying and basic finance. A nursing home or memory care facility should be considered at this point.  The person will experience:

  • Increased confusion
  • Isolation
  • Aggression
  • Personality changes
  • Forgetting details about their life past youth

Stage Six: Severe Decline

In Stage Six of the seven stages of Alzheimer’s, also known as Middle Dementia, the person with Alzheimer’s will require substantial assistance in their day-to-day lives. The person will have significant memory loss and likely forget the names of family members and close friends. Simple tasks become difficult in this stage, such as:

  • Basic counting
  • Speech
  • Controlling bowels and bladder

It’s not uncommon for people in Stage Six to experience increased anxiety and delusions. Wandering is also a risk in Stage Six.

Stage Seven: Very Severe Decline

Stage Seven, Late-Stage Dementia, is the final progression of Alzheimer’s disease. In this stage, a person with dementia loses psychomotor skills, meaning they’re reliant on others for mobility, eating, bathing, dressing, and most other daily activities. Coherent speech and long-term memory become almost nonexistent. Being a terminal illness, loved ones need to be prepared that a person with Alzheimer’s in Stage Seven will be nearing the end of their life.

Elderly woman using a walker while on a walk with her caregiver

Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s

Because the ​Alzheimer’s stages timeline ​can vary drastically from person to person, it can be difficult to decide ​when should someone with Alzheimer’s go into care​. People with Alzheimer’s disease generally live between three and eight years after diagnosis, but patients can survive 20 years or more. Alzheimer’s progressively worsens over many years. So catching the symptoms as early as possible is critical in giving your loved one the maximum amount of time.

When assisting your loved one with the activities of their daily lives is now longer tenable, it’s time to look into ​Alzheimer’s care facilities​. In many cases, the need for advanced assistance becomes apparent around Stage Four and Stage Five. For example, when dementia becomes so severe the person isn’t mobile enough to make it to the bathroom by themselves, or when a person begins wandering out of the house and risks serious injury, their caregiver must be able to lift the person without hurting themselves. ​Alzheimer’s care facilities ​have staff specifically trained to assist people with moderate to severe dementia for these exact scenarios.

Memory Support at The Buckingham

As the premier senior living community in Houston, The Buckingham proudly offers a full continuum of senior health services, including second-to-none programs designed to cater to your loved one’s specific memory care needs. To see how seniors at The Buckingham enjoy unparalleled support regardless of what stage of Alzheimer’s they’re in, visit our​ ​Health Services page.